Although 64 percent of adults who took part in a recent Deloitte survey said that companies should offer equal parental leave to both men and women, more than half said their coworkers would judge a man harshly if he took the same leave as a woman. This finding shows that it's not enough for companies to offer men parental leave; they also have to create a culture in which men feel able to use it.
The Family Medical Leave Act requires employers to provide 12 weeks unpaid maternity leave. Companies that provide paid maternity leave to mothers are required by law to give the same deal to fathers, but in many companies, a man who makes use of this paid time off could face hostility from his managers or coworkers.
Even though women now make up a significant proportion of the workforce, there is still a societal expectation that they are to take on the bulk of child-rearing responsibilities. However, in many modern families, the mother is the main breadwinner, which means that it makes financial sense for her to return to work while her partner stays home and looks after the child.
Many men are happy to take on the task of caring for their own children, but ingrained notions of gender roles mean that they could face stigma in the workplace if they choose to take parental leave to care for a new baby. According to a recent survey by Deloitte, 57 percent of men believe that their coworkers would perceive them as lacking commitment to their job if they choose to take parental leave.
The stigma that men face not only causes discomfort and tension in the workplace but could also lead to men who take leave being denied opportunities to advance their careers. Forty-two percent of men feel that taking parental leave would result in losing opportunities to work on important projects, which could also prevent them from developing the skills they need to pursue promotions and overall career growth.
In addition to offering parental leave to parents of both genders, companies must begin to address the toxic cultures that prevent men from taking time off to care for children, particularly in traditional professions, such as accounting. A culture that prioritizes employees' family lives demonstrates that the employer cares about workers as human beings rather than simply viewing them as a source of labor. In today's competitive recruiting market, this kind of culture could help companies attract the best talent.
Parental leave gives both men and women a chance to bond with a new baby. As society becomes increasingly gender-neutral, companies must take steps to eliminate the stigma against men taking parental leave. Addressing this stigma could bring benefits for men, women, children and companies.
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